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Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Billie Crump
Date of Interview - 9-28-1979
Interviewed by: Elaine Baker
Bob: I don't want to be quoted on anything. I don't know why you're picking on me to start with because I really don't know enough of the humanities to talk intelligently about them.
Elaine: Well, I'll tell you why I'm interested in coming and talking to you. We get so many stories from immigrant families who came over and worked as miners, and worked all their life in the mines, and that's... the majority of our people are ex miners, and their experiences in what they understood from where they worked, was very different from the whole picture. They were trying to get a broader picture from the early country for instance, now I know that the personal actions of people sometimes interpreted by some...like for instance, Jeff Farr. A lot of people have a lot of bad things to say about Jeff Farr; other people like the Chatins or Mrs. Nelson say that he was a really fine person, and that he's been made the villain of things. So, before I get anything specific, that's why I'm here, to get the other side of the story. We have plenty on one side and we don't have so much of the other side. Mr. George Dick gave us some, very good, three hours, of some very good material, but he's not as old as you and therefore...I think he was about 70 or...I think he's much older than that...I'm not sure.
Bob: 75. We knew him very well. We lived right across the street from him and...Dorothy was several years older than our oldest girl.
Elaine: So maybe the easiest way to do it is if you would tell me about your experiences, of how you came out here, and what your job was, and what the pressures were on management during this time...just be very honest.
Bob: I didn't have anything to do with management, I was a mining engineer.
Elaine: O.K. let's just start from there. How did you happen to get here?
Bob: Well, I started working in the coal mines in 1917, and I worked in a small mine with some friends that summer, all pick and shovel work on my hands and knees. I worked in the coal seam where it was 28 inches high in Pennsylvania, Central Pennsylvania. Then I went to school and I worked. After I finished school, I worked around Pittsburgh for a year and then had to take a vacation and travel out to the west coast with a friend of mine and so, I kind of liked the west anyway. So I had a chance to come out here from Pittsburgh through the Mine Safety Appliance Company. That was in 1923. As a mining Engineer I lived in Walsenburg for 7 or 8 years. Then I did a little traveling around and we moved up here to the Pueblo office in '29 and worked out of the office. I spent about half my time in the office, and half the time...around the mines; our mines and Corey's so I had contact with the miners, at least most of the time I was down around Walsenburg. I wasn't in the office too much down there. I belonged to the United Mine Workers by chance, and I was also under it in 1917 when I was in the mines. I was a trainee, in other words, in those days. That was unusual compared to what they're doing now. Some of the things I was taught at that time weren't too good at the present time. In other words it wasn't...conditions weren't too good. So mining conditions have improved to a great extent since that time: not only the amount of actual labor that was involved, but better working conditions and so on. I think you should contact the Colorado Fuel and Iron. Have you talked to anybody in their management at all?
Elaine: No I haven't.
Bob: There was a man there by the name of Melvin Harmon, and he could tell you, or give you some facts from the company's standpoint that I don't now anything about. I went through one strike, the IWW's, I think that was in 1927, but that's the only real labor trouble that I know anything about.
Elaine: That's the strike I'm fascinated by, because nobody seems to know what it was for. People have a very poor opinion of the strike. .The miners say they never should have gone out on strike. I can't figure what it was all about.
Bob: Well, In other words, why did they strike?
Elaine: I don't know. They seem...wasn't it rabble rousers that came out and started it? Wasn't that the main thing?
Bob: That's like asking the present generation, why did we have the Vietnam War. They gloss over that.
Elaine: Right, but it seems that the opinions of the people who were....the miners that actually were striking, was that they were being...the unions weren't working in their best interests, that they were somehow ...Are there many off the miners left, that were in the strike?
Bob: Yeah. I don't know whether they were or not.
Elaine: We have a much clearer...you know, because the age group, more people were around for the Wobbly strike.
Bob: Well, it was in '27 wasn't it?
Bob: That was over 50 years ago.
Elaine: Yeah, well that's...it always amazes me how there were a lot of accidents, but some of the miners who survived, are pretty healthy. We have a lot of 80 year old men that...
Bob: We had one accident at that time; one of my helpers in the Engineering Department, his father was killed in the mine and it was a horrible accident. It was his own fault as far as the company was concerned. Anyway, the day that they had the funeral services it was kind of a tense day, and there was some question at that time ...he belonged to, I think it was a Slavish organization, and they couldn't even agree between themselves as to whether they would interfere with the funeral services or anything else, so luckily there wasn't anything that happened. But, you mentioned sometimes that the miners themselves...they couldn't agree with the way things were going as you said, “What did they strike for”.
Elaine: What was the job of a Mining Engineer?
Bob: Well, the first work I did was regular straight survey work and keeping track of the mine workings, and telling them which direction to go and so forth, and of course we were down in the mines all the time practically and we had a lot of contact with the miners and almost always, we didn't have much opportunity to carry a lunch. All we had was a brown bag, and that's what I mean too. In other words we didn't carry any water at all and we didn't even carry a bucket like the miners did. We used to get water from the miners buckets, and some times they were humane, they even had a little wine there. So...but we generally get out around 7 o'clock in the morning and work until 5. Working conditions were pretty good.
Elaine: Well, you were always friendly with the miners.
Bob: Yeah. I never fussed with them too much.
Elaine: Did they consider you to be one of...a worker like them or part of the other side, the enemy?
Bob: No. I wouldn't say we were enemies at all, but I never had any particular trouble with any miner. I don't always agree with some of their politics, and others it was ok, but...
Elaine: That's an interesting position to be in, to be a worker with the miners and still be company.
Bob: After I came to Pueblo, as I said, I'd traveled around...I worked with the land and tax commissioners for about 40 years, up to the time I retired, and I never actually got into any...much, in the way of management or labor. I did have a little experience over at Wagon Wheel Gap where I dealt with the miners on labor questions and wage rates and so on and so forth, and I did used to travel over the state when negotiations were coming up for the miners contracts. I checked with the other companies as to what they were paying and the different working conditions, so I did have some experience from that standpoint.
Elaine: What would you say was the reason that the coal industry declined so drastically in Huerfano County?
Bob: That's a simple question. I”ll give you an answer. The principle thing that caused it was the introduction of gas in this country from down south in Texas. And beside gas it was oil, and diesel fuels and the electric industry; electrification of the mines and the elimination of boiler plants, not only around the mines and all industry in the country. They cut down the amount of coal necessary so that...instead of making their own power from coal, it was made indirectly by utility companies. Of course some of the utility companies were oil and gas so that was..but what happened in Huerfano County was quite a bit of water in the mines down there, and if they didn't sell the coal it was impossible to pay the expense of keeping the water out of the mines, and also it was the cost of ventilation. In other words, that cost some money. If you didn't make any sales, you didn't make any money. That's the reason they closed down. There's still a lot of coal down there; there's a lot of coal in Huerfano County and all over Colorado, as far as that goes...it wasn't confined to Huerfano County.
Elaine: Some people feel that it was because of.. well, they know that in the end it was because of the government regulations and the union demands that made it unfeasible, but you say that just speeded up the process, you know that the...
Bob: How's that now?
Elaine: The union demands and government regulation made it unprofitable...
Bob: Now, that's going from bad to worse. I've had a little experience recently, not in Huerfano County, but in Fremont County, with government requirements even for opening up a mine and I know of one outfit up there...they opened up a new mine in Fremont County and they were held up by the Colorado Reclamation Board for 5 months, and they had to make a report on a lot of stuff. They're just plain ridiculous. This report cost about One hundred Thousand dollars and that was a small mine, and it's the same way in some of the mining regulations both Federal, preferably Federal, not so much the state. Some of the requirements that are made, they are made by...decided by people who don't have actual knowledge of coal mining and that applies in this Fremont County. This Reclamation Board... on the board there's some mining men in there, but the staff is more environmental minded and they don't have a Mining Engineer on their whole staff. .George Dick...what was his opinion of why the mines, see, they had a mine down there. They had several, you mentioned Chatin too.
Bob: Well, he's dead.
Elaine: Oh no, August Chatin gave us a very nice interview.
Bob: How old is he?
Elaine: He's 80....
Bob: Maybe it's the same one. I thought Augie had died. He ought to be dead.
Elaine: Um-um. He and his wife take a walk every day.
Bob: He was a Mining Engineer. I'll be darned; I don't know where I got that notion.
Elaine: Yeah, he and George Dick were very...They said “sometimes my wife and I get embarrassed because we go see our friends and we're so healthy and we take a walk every day”.
Bob: Oh, we kind of lost track of people down there when Norma Lou's dad died. We were quite good friends and we used to go down there all the time. Well, professionally, and just as friends, and after Doc died, why we didn't go down very often. Oh, Norma Lou comes up here but we don't get down to Walsenburg like we did and I haven't kept up with the people, but I sure thought...
Elaine: They had some interesting things to say. They helped us understand what it would be like to be responsible to be able to see the whole business as a whole and be kind of in the middle of the crossfire and how the...Dick George talked about the practices where people cheated. I guess everybody tried to take advantage of everybody else unless you were being watched.
Bob: Haven't they done that since the beginning of time?
Elaine: I guess it's what you call human nature, but unless you talk to people and realize that there were some things going on, it's hard to get the whole picture. I never heard some of the practices like with timbers. He would get charged with not more than was done and ...
Bob: What do you mean, who had charged them?
Elaine: When George Dick wad talking about that the management would get charged for....someone would say they did so much timbering, and then keep going.
Bob: That August worked for George Dick for awhile and George offered me a job one time, but luckily I passed it up.
Elaine: What do you mean?
Bob: Well, you said mining conditions dropped off and they had to shut the mines down so.... but I was looking for another job. There wasn't anything personal concerned with it. I just figured I'd be better off with a better organization.
Elaine: They both ... Well; most people in the county are fair. It's just that most people only saw one side and they generally kept those same beliefs despite what other information came, but there's not any bad feeling. Nobody mentions names and we all feel like we don't want to make.... stir up old bitterness, but, on the other hand, let's keep the record straight.
Bob: I didn't know there was any bitterness. Well, we were too late.... As far as I can remember, there wasn't much bitterness after the Wobbly strike. I taught down in Walsen Camp and I never.... I taught the miners children you see, and I never noticed any bitterness at all .I lived out in the Walsen Camp myself for over 2 years and I had some good friends from all nationalities, although, some were more industrious than others, but that wasn't my fault, and, of course, I knew some politicians down there including a fellow named Sam Taylor. You never got to interview him did you?
Elaine: No, I knew him, but before I started this project, he passed on.
Bob: Well, You knew he was Sam Tessitore?
Elaine: Yeah. And we did interview Neechi Lenzini and, oh, a number of people from the family, Yeah he was an interesting man.
Bob: He went a long way for the education...well, he had a good education. He went to...
Elaine: He finished...he graduated from Boulder when he went for Law
Bob: I knew Sam pretty well. He always, for some reason or another he always called me Mr. Jackson, and even in later years when he was up in the state senate.
Elaine: I heard he did a lot for the coal industry.
Bob: He didn't last long as a miner. But, he was looking out for Sam right from the start.
Elaine: We'll take that up too, don't worry. It's so hard to talk about these things without getting...
Bob: Well, that's common knowledge. I'm not telling you anything that you couldn't find out most any place.
Elaine: Oh I know. I found it out over and over again, but that seems to be one of the problems with politics in Huerfano County. It's such a small place. Well, the trouble is, that so many have gone, passed on as they say
Bob: Of course I don't know too much about the 1913 strike. I wasn't around but I heard a lot of stories about it
and it wasn't as one sided as some people try to make us believe, and there's been a lot written about it including Senator McGovern.. You read his book? Ok Who wrote the book? McGovern didn't write it. It was written by a Welshman.
Elaine: Gutrich. Well, except though, the book started out as his Doctoral thesis. When he was running for President, Gutrich came in his office and said “this would make a good book” and McGovern said “I don't have the time, if you want to do it go ahead and do it”.
Bob: He takes credit for it.
Elaine: Yeah, because it was based on his thesis but actually, Gutrich, I think he spent about 20 minutes in Walsenburg, as far as I can tell.
Bob: What's the thesis supposed to be made by? Who is supposed to make the thesis?
Elaine: McGovern did the thesis, but Gutrich did the book from the thesis, because I've seen the thesis.
Bob: You mean the thesis is actually done from the book itself?
Elaine: The thesis you would like even less than the book. The thesis is much more radical than the book, but Gutrich changed things around, and he did some more research. From what I found out of Walsenburg, he didn't get....Bousheau was worse than him though. Bousheau was much more... he got things.. He didn't even bother to do the research it seems. He just took novel stories; because Mrs. Nelson lived...she told me the incident of the Wallmeyer house when they came to get the furniture to take them to Walsen Camp. It's in McGovern's book and in Bousheau's book.
Bob: What is that name?
Elaine: Wallmeyer. They were... he was working in the mine and lived on 7th street, two doors down from the Seventh Street District School, the brick building, which is where our office is. It still has the bullet holes in the brick.
Bob: What was the name of that school?
Elaine: Well, it was the school district office. It was the Seventh Street School. I substituted there one time.
Bob: Was that down there by Anna's place? Close to it I think.
Bob: You've heard of Anna?
Bob: I didn't have anything against Anna.....
Elaine: No, you were just going to tell a story on me and I'd just as soon you wouldn't.
Bob: Of course... After the 1913 strike, McKenzie King was here from Canada and he involved the representation, company representation, miner representation and that existed for some time, of course that helped conditions all the way around.....living conditions in the camp themselves, they improved, of course the company was blamed for some of the living conditions that were off of company property. That wasn't fair and after I worked for quite awhile...I think it was 1933, when I ... when the miners went, the United Mine Workers and ... but there's been a lot of improvements made on that___________. Of course, they built these YMCA's and that was.... that helped the company. .It also helped the miners. Of course, the YMCA didn't include the smaller operators so there was some benefit derived by the CF&I miners that some of the other miners didn't receive. Of course they also had the medical plans back in those days. I don't know what the medical costs ran. A couple of dollars only. Not very much. It seems to me like I came up and had all three of my children's tonsils taken out in the hospital for about.... it seems like it was about... it was less than $50.00.
Elaine: Well, I don't.... in other words; it was very reasonable considering especially what they have today. When did they build them YMCA's?
Bob: Well, they were built after the strike.
Elaine: So the company.... that plan worked pretty good... that McKenzie came?
Bob: And the representation plan worked pretty good. I was on the board. I don't even remember the name of it now. I used to meet with the miners. That's when I still lived down in Walsenburg. This doesn't apply to the coal mines, but the Steel works here in Pueblo was the first steel plant in the United States that went on the 8 hour work day. So they were rather human on that I guess. Humane. Working conditions were no worse in those days then they were all over the country.
Elaine: Wages were higher out here, right? It seems like that's why people came from Pennsylvania because you made more per day than you did there?
Bob: Well, I wouldn't know about that, of course when I came out here, I got more than I was getting in Pennsylvania and during the depression I was pretty lucky. I worked part time for awhile then, of course I took a cut in wages but eventually we came out of that. I'm looking at the title on McGovern's book and the first sentence is one that is just a plain lie. ”The Great Coal Field War.” It was the most violent and tragic conflict in the history of American Labor. That guy didn't know what he was writing about. So you can discard anything Mr. McGovern or his Welshman have to say.
Elaine: That's a pretty clear statement.
Bob: It's the truth. He doesn't know enough about the labor troubles in this country or he wouldn't make a statement like that.
Elaine: So, how do you see .... what do you see as the cause of that conflict? I know you weren't really ... you came afterwards. What do you see as the cause of that conflict down there in that 20-30 year period?
Bob: I don't know enough about it. It wasn't as one sided as the media made out. The media includes McGovern.
Elaine: What was the social life of Walsenburg during those days?
Bob: Walsenburg or Walsen Camp?
Elaine: Well, both of them.
Bob: Well, What do you mean by the social life, now?
Elaine: Well, I hear most people, you know, you hear about all these hardships of the mines, but almost 100 per cent of the people I talked to loved living, growing up in the camp. They said the life was wonderful. We had such a good time. And they wouldn't have traded it for any other place, and it's kind of interesting that they say the same thing about working in the mines. The miners say they like the life. They'd rather work underneath. It was always warm. It was always the same temperature; you didn't freeze..It's kind of interesting because you hear all these bad stories about the conditions and the miner's lives.
Bob: Who puts out the bad stories?
Elaine: The same people that....
Bob: You mean the miners put out the bad stories, and the good stories too?
Elaine: Yeah, they contradict themselves. I guess both must be true.
Bob: In Walsen Camp, we had the YMCA there; they had these community meetings. We had to put on programs for the community meetings. Well, maybe they did, but on the other hand, attendance at the community meetings was not compulsory by any means. And it was ... there wasn't any segregation, of course, we had the red camp ... you heard of the red camp I guess ... and we used to go up there sometimes Sunday nights and listen to their singing and listen to their services. From that standpoint I can remember going to some of the dances at the camps. We'd go out from Walsen and stay for maybe a week at ...well, I went to Cameron and Ideal and Rouse. And I used to go to the 5th of May dances at Ideal. That was predominately a Mexican camp. I had some good Mexican friends, both boys and girls, so that wasn't ...... And then Walsen, you had the clerks, in camp, and your school teachers. It wasn't all moderate. Well, I happened to live with Minnie and Alice Matthews, but when I first went down, I lived in one of the miner's homes. Davis was a miner. He was an official, mine foreman. I'll tell you who you ought to see, who might be able to give you some good information. Mrs. Reizer. She was the chief clerk's wife, and they were down there when we went down there, when I went down there to teach.
Elaine: How long had Elmer been down there Bob?
Bob: Oh I don't know. He's dead, but she's still living and she might be able to ... yeah, she lived here. She lives out ...now, I'm not sure if she lives with her daughter or not. You know the Anderson Carpet Company you see advertised? Why, that's her son-in-law. I bet she could...She'd be a good one to talk to. See if her name's in the phone book.
Elaine: What about law and order, was it orderly, or was it wild?
Bob: I can remember the first week I was in Walsenburg, of course, it had nothing to do with the miners, but ... I don't know what the fellows name was but anyway one of the natives killed another one with a meat axe. So, I don't remember any trouble with the law, but I wondered what kind of community I was getting into. I never knew Jeff Farr very well.
Elaine: Is it Riser or Rizer?
Elaine: Are you sure? I'm not sure.
Bob: Sure, it better be.
Elaine: Yeah, you're right I guess. Yeah, Elmer Rizer, 619 Broadway. She evidently still lives in the same house. I didn't know whether she was living with Margaret or not.
Bob: Do you think you'd be interested in talking to her?
Elaine: Oh, I'd love to, sure.
Bob: Want me to call her?
Elaine: Yeah, let's wait until we finish this tape then, I would love to make an appointment with her.
Bob: She's quite a talker and I know they.....
Elaine: There are so many people in Pueblo and you're the ....well, we just seen Father Delaney. He's still up here isn't he?
Bob: Who's that?
Elaine: Father Delaney.
Bob: How about? Did you ever hear of him?
Bob: He's been dead for quite a few years, but Delaney is still living. He's retired up here isn't he?
Elaine: Yeah, he's up by the Chinese Dragon.
Bob: Of course we're Protestants, but we had a lot of Catholic friends. I never belonged to the KKK for which I”m thankful.
Elaine: That was very active down there, wasn't it at one time?
Bob: Oh, fairly so. I don't think it was as active down there, as in Canon City. It was more active up there.
Elaine: What was their purpose? Were they against the ...I mean, I know in general, but did they cause disturbances against the different ethnic groups?
Bob: They just met in secret.
Elaine: A lot of it was religion, wasn't it Bob?
Bob: Well, I figure it was more religion. I don't think it was so much the blacks around this country, as it was religion. Of course I think Canon City was a kind of a for the Ku-Klux-Klan. I think Mrs. Rizer was originally from Fremont County, I think her folks were in the mining business. They were Welsh.. Lloyd was her maiden name, Sarah Lloyd.
Elaine: How did the different nationalities get along?
Bob: Well, in Huerfano County... I don't think there was much trouble there, but in Fremont County they had the Italian section of town, they had the Scotch and they had the Welsh, and one of my Italian friends said that at night it wasn't safe for him to be either in the Scottish or the Welsh part of town. So, that never occurred down in Huerfano County as far as I know.
Elaine: I get very nice reports, well, except for sometimes on a Saturday night, which didn't have anything to do with
nationality. Yeah, that was just a little too much liquor.
Bob: That's right.
Elaine: Did they have any dances out at the club?
Bob: Out where?
Elaine: Out at the YWCA.
Bob: Oh yes. We used to have some out there. But we used to go down town, down in Walsenburg to the dances mostly. I never belonged to the Elk's Club, I did belong to the Masons. We were never joiners much. We had a lot of fun. When we first moved up here, why, we used to go back all the time. It seems like it took me an awful long time to make new friends up here, but we finally did. Here's another thing that happened. I'm talking about Fremont County. The Elks club up there, for years, is a question of the Italians couldn't get into the Elks Club. They'd be blackballed. Well, they finally got away from that, and then the next segregation was with the Mexicans, and they had a tough time, but they finally made it up there too, see. Of course the blacks were no trouble in Fremont County that I know of. We never had many black miners. We had a few down in Lester and I guess some of the other camps had some, but they were mainly out here from Alabama, I guess. Oh, there was one question I wanted to ask you. Did you ever hear of a family in Boston by the name of Whitman?
Elaine: In Boston, well, there's a large Whitman family. I went to school with different people but I wouldn't know ... I'm not....
Bob: Well, the reason I ask you that.....I was stationed at Pittsburgh ... I was in the ROTC and stationed at Pittsburgh Barracks, New York, in 1918 and I was sent from there down to Trinity College in North Carolina, and we had a rebel Captain and a First Lieutenant from Kansas. Then I was from Pennsylvania and the rest of the boys were from.... they were Second Lieutenants... they were from Maine and Massachusetts. I think Mr. Whitman was from Boston, and I think he was pretty well off. I haven't heard or seen of him since.
Elaine: It's a strong and large family there. Yeah, I'm sure he's still doing well. So, do you ... do these people who worked together, like the different officials and Mining Engineers, do they keep in touch? Was there a close feeling?
Bob: Oh Yeah, I think ... In other words, I worked with ... we had one man from Boston. We used to kid him about being from the Boston Bean mines, and we had another fellow from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then we had another fellow from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was District Engineer when I was down there, and we had a boy from Kansas. We had two Italian boys from Fremont County. They worked in the Engineering Department but we never had much trouble. I remember one time we had a little fuss with the Boston boy. He got a little belligerent one morning and took on 20 Italians. He got bloodied up a little bit and came back in the office; he had been outside, he came back into the office and they started arguing again so they went back outside and the Boston boy finally figured he had enough, so they all went out to work together. He was kind of battered up a little bit. He came home that night and went up to the boarding house and he said he just ran into a fence. That's the only real trouble I ever saw, but that wasn't a question of nationality at all, just a difference of opinion.
Elaine: Was it and advantage to work for the CF&I rather than a smaller mine, for the miners?
Bob: Oh, I don't know. The only difference is in, who is that?
Mrs. J: Pest control is in the neighborhood and wanted to see if we had any termites. They wanted to give you a free inspection for termites. I've never seen any. I said, Well, I've never seen any sign of them. He said, well, these people down here that they're doing the house on them, never had seen any sign of them either. I don't think we have too many termites in this part of the country.
Elaine: Well, the question I ask everybody is, what are the changes that you've seen over the years, what are the things that you noticed most about times being different?
Bob: Well, the main thing, as far as the miners were concerned, was the mechanization of the mines and getting away from so much hand labor, and, of course the wages of the miners increased dramatically. There are more Spanish-American miners than there used to be, and some of them were like all other nationalities; some of them had more ambition, were harder workers. In fact Dorothy had one young man in Kindergarten. He's now out at the CF&I Mining Department, and they're one of the nicest families she ever had anything to do with. Of course when she was teaching out in ...for the School District 60; she had been on the school board here for four years before she started teaching and she took that district out there ... Lakeview... which was steel workers district, rather than to work next to home where people were supposed to ... what would you say about them?
Mrs. J: Well, my children all went to Carlisle over here, but I had substituted in all of the districts on the south side.. I really liked and got along better with the parents. They were more interested and didn't squabble about what somebody else's grades were, so forth and so on. I had dealt with the PTA over here quite a little bit, of course, I think things have changed in that length of time you know.
Bob: I was wondering ... they had that down in Walsen too... I used to get on the election board down there. They had one colored man on the election board and one of the other members on the election board was very much perturbed when we were all invited to go up to the boarding house and have lunch together. She didn't mind working on the election board, and getting her money, but eating with the black folks .... and as far as I was concerned, I thought more of the black men, then I did of her as far as her ideas of life were concerned.
Elaine: What happened to the black population and the Greek population? Did they just leave when the mines closed?
Bob: Who's that?
Elaine: The black population and the Greek population. There doesn't seem to be any anymore.
Bob: Well, we never had many Greeks in Huerfano County and we didn't have too many blacks either.
Mrs. J: They had more, I think, up here in Pueblo than, as I understand it, than they did in the camps.
Bob: I was on the ...... funded by the governor, on the examining board for mine officials where they give them papers for mine foreman an so on and so forth, and I had ... During examinations, we had a lot of oral work as well as the written test, and a lot of these miners, they had a tough time even writing some of them, and of course, now, I was examining them later in ... well before 1968, but some of these miners still had a tough time expressing their thoughts. They had the ideas alright, but it's a whole lot better I know, than it used to be, so they're better educated and a big help. A lot of these second generation ex-miners got into operations and so they've benefited by the experience in this country. There's no doubt about that.
Elaine: Then was there very often movement upwards?
Bob: They were always moving up, some of them. I mentioned your friend Abel.
Mrs. J: Abel Tapia?
Bob: The Tapia you had in Kindergarten. I think he's the assistant Chief Engineer in the mining department out there. Of course they were an exceptional family to start with.
Mrs. J: No, I don't think his folks were miners Bob; they worked out at the PAD.
Elaine: So, within the camps though, everybody was friendly with each other, there weren't these...
Mrs. J: Feuds? Oh there may have been a few feuds, but not that I knew anything about. You'd hear every now and then that there would be, but no, I think they were all pretty friendly, weren't they Bob?
Bob: Yes, I don't know about any ...
Elaine: And between the officials and the miners, everybody lived in the same camp?
Bob: I don't think we had too much trouble.
Mrs. J: Yeah, the Superintendent and the assistant Superintendent and the foreman, they all lived in the camps you see.
Bob: Well practically all of them..
Mrs. J: Of course, any place, Superintendent of schools or anyplace you have Superintendents, they don't get along with people, you know that.
Elaine: Well. What was ... what do you think ... when you came to Colorado from the East, what was the most startling thing about it?
Mrs. J: Wasn't it the flood that you said you'd just as soon go home, or what was it? You said after you'd been here awhile, you just as soon have gone home. What was it, what was the trouble?
Bob: The first couple of weeks we had a couple of pretty good blizzards out here. I didn't know whether I'd appreciate that too much, but it didn't last.
Mrs. J: He was out ...he came out the first of the year, then I came down to teach in September.
Elaine: So you knew each other? You came ...
Mrs. J: No, I didn't know him until I came down. I was eighteen when I came down to teach. I had 3 years of college and I came down to teach. I had a light certificate. They used light certification then, you know.
Bob: I think this ... I think it's healthier here because in Pennsylvania you had the fog. There were a couple of coal mines up there near my home. We had the fog, had the burning dumps, sulphur and so on, I really think it's a healthier country and I really think the people are probably more sociable.
Mrs. J: Most people who come west, like it, wouldn't go back east to live. There are some who are unhappy
about it, but most people I've talked to have liked the west, especially Colorado. We have a son, Norma Lou's sister's husband, in California, and they think California is wonderful. They wouldn't ...
Elaine: Yeah. Before I go over to your wife, I want to ask you,... you just mentioned you started out working in the mine in Pennsylvania before you went to school.
Mrs. J: It was a summer job.
Elaine: What was your family background? Were they from Pennsylvania?
Bob: Yes, I was checking last summer when I was back home, reading a little history, and the Jacksons originally came from ... they were Scotch Irish and came over in 1773, and they first came into Philadelphia, stayed there a little while, then went to western Pennsylvania, in Johannistown, which was the first judicial district set up west of the Allegheny mountains. They had five or six companies of militia; five of them went to the Revolutionary War, and the other stayed there in Pennsylvania. I don't believe they have any records of any of my folks being in the Revolutionary War, but Johannastown was invented in 1782 by the French and Indians, and they were lucky enough to get back to the fort and that's the only reason they were able to live in this country. Of course they were in the 1790 census, I found that out. I didn't make a copy of it. My father was left an orphan when he was 17 years old and he had 4 brothers and a sister to look after, so he had kind of a tough time and never got too far in school, but he was a steelworker. He said he'd never work on the railroad and never work in the mines, but he did work in the steelworks. His occupation was actually a steelworker, but he was a sheet heater. That's where you roll roofing and car bodies and stuff like that. On my birth certificate, my father's occupation was given as a sheet heater.
Mrs. J: But all three of his kids went to school.
Bob: Yeah, we all went to school. We never knew anything else. I've got a brother who's a Presbyterian preacher, also a nephew and a sister who's a school teacher. She's, I guess, finally going to get into a nursing home. She's kind of cantankerous and likes to live by herself. Dorothy has a sister the same way.
Mrs. J: These are the four fellows that went to Penn State together and that worked that summer in the mine. (She's showing Elaine a picture). This one is still living in Pennsylvania, and this one is dead, and this one is in bad shape up in Vermont.
Bob: But, I can't remember. I know who you're thinking of, but I can't remember the name.
Elaine: Well, I could get back to it, if we get the project extended and I have a chance to go out and .....
Bob: I don't know a Betty Garden up there at all.
Elaine: Well, I'll tell you Bob.... yeah, I just wanted to ask you about your experience as a teacher in Walsen Camp. You've talked and I'll have it faintly, but now that you're plugged in, if you can tell me what the nicest parts about teaching in the camps were.
Mrs. J: Meeting my husband, No, I really enjoyed teaching in the camp. I enjoyed the ... well; you might say the closeness with the parents and the children in a small place, that you don't get when you're in the larger cities.
Elaine: Were the parents critical or did they ...
Mrs. J: I don't believe they were. I don't feel that they were. They were very cooperative..
Elaine: There was no problem with discipline in those days?
Mrs. J: I didn't have any problem with discipline.
Elaine: That's what I hear, that it was ....
Mrs. J: I had more trouble when I quit teaching here; it got to be quite a chore.
Elaine: Well, how did you meet your husband? What was the social life like? The opportunities?
Mrs. J: Well, we taught Sunday School. Well, we weren't required but they kind of expected you to teach Sunday School, and the Sunday School met in the YMCA buildings that they had, which was a social deal, and that's where I met him. I had a sorority sister that.... when I went down there to teach, she'd been down a year before, she taught Home Ec, and she wrote back to the sorority house President. She wrote back and said there was an opening for first grade. Well, I was supposed to go on and get my degree right away instead of just a light certificate but I wanted to go down there and earn some money. That's the first time I had been away from home and I went down there to teach when I was 18 and a bunch of us, principal of the school, and several of the teachers went down to a dance hall on Saturday night, and we all just went down, you know, down from Walsen Camp to Walsenburg, and a couple of the fellows that we met, they were going to Boulder, and of course, you get to talking you know, and they brought Bob over, and introduced him as Mr. Jackson and me as Miss Smiley. He said “How do you do”, and turned away and walked off. I don't know whether he didn't like me or whether he was just shy or just what. I thought, ah-ha, I'll get even with you! So we all went home later on in the evening and the sorority sister's intended boyfriend or fiancé was down from one of the camps down in the Trinidad area to see her, and he was going to stay with Bob in his room and they stayed and they stayed ...
Oh, no, I got home and she said “we have somebody we want you to meet, and we're going to go on a picnic out at the Cuchara Camps tomorrow”. This was Saturday night. So we all got in this little Ford coupe and went down town to the dance and this young man went up to the dance, and guess who he brought down? Bob. He started to introduce me. I said. “I've met Mr. Jackson.” So that's how I met him, and then we started going together. We went together for two years before we were married.
Bob: Several times, different years, that I taught a class to the miners and they were going up for examinations, for the papers, for mine foreman and so on and so forth, and I think the same thing applied to that class as what applied to her teaching. In other words, this first generation people that came over from other countries, one of the main things they wanted was a good education for their children, and I think that's what they appreciated, and tried to get along with the teachers. They wanted their youngsters to have the best education they could give them.
Elaine: Now were you under the ------------------ Of the teacher's course?
Bob: No, I wasn't paid for that.
Elaine: So it was like Sunday School teaching.
Mrs. J: They used to do a lot more of that years ago, than they do now. They all expect to be paid for everything.
Elaine: That really surprises me, that's wonderful that they had classes. What were some of the other volunteer activities then?
Mrs. J: Oh, I don't know. I didn't have too many outside things. I had a good time, I rode horseback..
Elaine: Did the ranchers and the miners socialize, or was it pretty separate?
Mrs. J: I don't remember anything about the ranchers down there. Do you Bob?
Bob: I didn't know too much about 'em.
Mrs. J: In that day and time, I don't think they did. They may now you see. Of course how long has it been that the mines quit down there?
Bob: Oh, in the fifties, I guess, anyways.
Elaine: Do you think ... I ask a lot ... there are a lot of different opinions? Is there likely to be a resurgence of coal down there? Some people say the veins are too thin to strip and other people say, well, that's good coal.
Bob: Well, I think some of them have exaggerated ideas of possibilities. I think there's been a lot of drilling down in Las Animas County, but conditions are something else. In other words, in this country, especially in Huerfano and Las Animas County it takes a lot of money to drill those properties and the coal seams are thick in some areas and thin out as they go along. Especially in Huerfano County. They have a lot of natural coke down there where the coal was underground....... was by the dikes, the igneous dikes that run down from the Spanish Peaks. We had that out in the Cameron Mine, and I don't know the results of recent drilling down there but I know that something's going on.. With the present regulations, it's really tough to start a new mine these days and in that , I go back to my friend Sam Taylor. At one time ... did you ever hear of ARCO?
Bob: OK, Sam had some property out around LaVeta and they had a big flurry out there and had the governor down. They were going to make coke, or equivalent to coke down there, but that fizzled out. At the same time, Mr. Taylor had interests in leases up in ....... including state leases. He was in the state Legislature, but he had state leases up in Moffat County, so actually he was more interested in that than he was in the Walsenburg area.
Elaine: How did or did politics stay pretty separate from the activities of the companies or after the ...
Bob: Oh, I don't think; at least in my time and of course, they used to claim that the CF&I ran the voting down there, but I think that was a lot of Bologna. They couldn't influence the voters anymore than they do now. I don't think politics are too influenced, although, I think ..... but you have your political now, like a Republican doesn't stand a chance in Pueblo County.
Elaine: Are you a Republican or Democrat?
Bob: When politics changed, we had a couple of friends here in Pueblo, for instance, well, I'll say one particular friend who were very good Republicans and their son is the Attorney General for the state and there's another family here that were very good Republicans and ....
Mrs. J: They wanted to get elected.
Bob: They wanted to get elected. That's the whole story.
Elaine: That's politics, isn't it?
Bob: Robert A, Jackson who is the owner of Fortino
Mrs. J: Bob you don't want that on tape.
Bob: Huh? Why sure, she wanted to know about humanities. That's a change of opinion. He's the personal representative of Governor Lamm down there and we have a son and daughter-in-law who are stone Democrats. Dr. Brunelli was about as rabid a Republican as you could find. He couldn't understand how Janie and Bobby could be Democrats. He'd turn over in his grave.
Mrs. J: The thing is that, let's see, Bobby got his Degree from Denver University and his Masters' from Iowa University, and he was a political science major, History and political science. The majority of the political science professors and teachers were Democrats. That was the side of the fence they were on. So, I think maybe that's where Bobby became interested in ....
Elaine: The Democratic Party?
Mrs. J: He teaches.... what does he teach the Seniors, what's the subject?
Bob: I forgot what it was.
Mrs. J: Political science, or that's the type of thing that he teaches to Seniors.
Bob: There's some humanity in that talk he gave out there. I was surprised at that, but ....
Elaine: So, that's your son and he's a college teacher?
Mrs. J: No, in high school. Seniors in high school. He's been out there ever since he got his Masters' from Iowa.
Bob: I never got involved in politics at all. I never helped any politicians to any extent.
Mrs. J: All he does is gripe about it.
Bob: Yeah, I don't miss any elections.
Mrs. J: I was a Democrat all my life, being from Alabama naturally, but I guess I'm a Republican. I'm registered as a Republican, but I vote as I please.
Elaine: Well, it's just interesting that Huerfano County never had a two party system. It had one party that didn't have the other.
Mrs. J: Well, what do you mean by that now?
Elaine: Well, at first, they had the Republicans and you had to be a Republican, and now you have to be a Democrat. There doesn't seem to be any ....
Mrs. J: When did you have to be a Republican down there?
Elaine: That was before Jeff Farr. That was from 1880 until 1938.
Mrs. J: I don't know too much about the history down there.
Elaine: Yeah, it was all Republican and they had a Republican Party. The Democrats used to meet in secret in the beginning, but then they got theirs. It's been like that ever since. But, we just hope someday there'll be two parties down there again. It's just healthier.
Mrs. J: Is Walsenburg growing any?
Elaine: Well, I think it grew; I think this census showed that it has grown a little bit.
Mrs. J: Because, I know a lot of people moved away, there for awhile.
Elaine: Yeah, and I think certainly there hasn't been any great trend back but there's a number of rather ... They say they're going to open the strip mine...
Mrs. J: Where?
Elaine: It's on Highway 69 about 10 miles.
Mrs. J: Do you know where it is? (Talking to Bob Jackson)
Bob: What's that?
Mrs, J: They say they're going to open the strip mine out of that. Do you know anything about it?
Bob: Out of where?
Mrs. J: Walsenburg
Bob: Well, there's one out at Pryor, just on this side of Lester.
Elaine: Yeah, I know them. Ther's going to be one right on Highway 69 about 7 to 10 miles ....
Bob: Is that on the Gardner road?
Elaine: Yes, 7 or 10 miles out, before Tioga.
Mrs. J: What company is it?
Elaine: It's a company from Springs.
Bob: Well, Huerfano County isn't good strip mining country, but as far as a large operation, no, because the coal
goes down too steep and the hills go up, so it never increases. So, that's .....I don't think there's much chance of a large operation, There's a lot of those franchise operations up in Fremont County, but it has the same troubles up there. The coal goes down and the hills go up, so ----------- You run into too much--------- To make an operatable operation.
Elaine: Well, there's a pipeline..... they're drilling for CO2. They've found enough... I can't remember. Then there's uranium ....there's uranium there too. That's gone a little slower because it requires some prominence of clearance.
Mrs. J: I was reading something in the paper about finding uranium out at Colorado City.
Elaine: Uh-huh. That one's probably ....I think in the mountains there's a crescent --------------. There are some more jobs related to different types of industries than there were before and it might bring more people. But, that's everything that's happened.
Mrs. J: Well, it makes a nice little town. I enjoyed living down there. I didn't mind moving to Pueblo when the company-------------------, but I went down there an awful lot to .....
Elaine: Well, it is a nice town and I hope they get to grow together.
Mrs. J: Do you think you are going to stay there then?
Elaine: I don't know if I can afford it. But, I'm going to try. If I can afford to live there I will.
Mrs. J: Do your children come into town to school?
Elaine: No, they have a school in Gardner. It's just that for our age group, there aren't many jobs. They're all specialized and ......we'll see. I think I'm finished with my questions unless you can think of anything I might have missed.
Mrs. J: Can you think of anything Bob?
Bob: Well, I'll tell you this. Between Walsenburg and Canon City, I'd prefer to live in Canon City.
Mrs. J: Well, why?
Bob: Canon City is a little closer to the hills; and the climate, I think is better. I think there are more opportunities up in Canon City right now. There's a lot of old folks ..... more retired people in Canon City than Walsenburg.
Mrs. J: Where did you live in California?
Elaine: We lived in Sanora, that's north of San Francisco about 60 or ....
Mrs. J: Bobby and Janie are in Modesto. You know where Modesto is?
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